onto new adventures

while this motorcycle trip has ended, we're onto new adventures! time for us to create our life's work of art in Tonga. we've been getting requests from quite a few of you folks to continue postings while we're in Vava'u, so we'll do so on another blog: fetokoisland.blogspot.com. check there to keep updated on our shenanigans and our upcoming project: building on Fetoko Island! thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green Belt

Owensboro, Kentucky and onto Lawrenceville, Georgia

The next stop was supposed to be Louisville, Kentucky to see Stacy’s brother Scott, who we haven’t seen in too many years. Unfortunately, scheduling and weather made us push on early. Getting to Owensboro mid-day, we popped in to see Ben’s uncle and aunt at their obgyn practice and then hung out with them and Ben’s cousins overnight at their home. I walked the 'Green Belt' with the girls. We loved being with Ron, Vicky, Mary, David & Elizabeth. Again a short visit, but wonderful to see these guys; they all have such bright spirits. Leaving Owensboro quickly the next morning, we hoped to beat the large rain into Lawrenceville, Georgia, near Atlanta, and back to Ben’s dad’s house. It would have been great to stop overnight in Nashville, Tennessee area, but it was supposed to downpour all through the night and the next day, so we rode on. Fortunately, we picked beautiful roads near to the highways and spent the day on a gorgeous ride through the countryside and through small towns established in the early 1800’s.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Shelbyville, Indiana

One of the highlights of this trip is all the family we’ve gotten to see along the way. We’ve been looking forward to seeing this branch of Ben’s family for a few years now. Ben used to spend summers as a kid with Linda’s parents in Indiana. Luckily, Lisa got to meet his grandparents while they were still alive. They were both hard-working, open-minded, and lovely and will always be fondly thought of and missed. Riding through Indiana to get to their house we were reminded that these areas are all surrounded by corn… corn, flatlands, and tornados. We rode through little towns that Ben recognized as ones he used to visit when he was a kid with his grandfather while he worked. Although Bill and Mazelle have both recently passed on, the rest of the family is alive and well. Ben’s aunts and uncle and their kids and ten grandkids are all the sweetest and we had a most relaxing and entertaining time with them. The oneness and community of family is strongly felt here. It reminds us a lot of families in the South Pacific and the intimacy they feel with each other. It was such a blessing to spend time with these guys, although not nearly enough. Alan and Mary, if you read this, we love and miss you and hope to see you very very soon. Good luck with ‘the Woods’.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Time Flew!

Powell, Ohio
Leaving Titusville, we headed for a little town in Ohio just outside of Columbus where we stayed with long time friends we’ve not seen since our wedding in 2002, Stacy and Vince and their kids Max and Maddy. The kids are teenagers now and we had a great time catching up. These guys have 3 dogs, one of them is so absolutely ugly that he’s got to be the cutest dog we’ve ever seen. Another long time friend, Tina, came to hang out with her kids Samantha and Zac who have grown up too and are in college and driving cars and stuff! (whoa, time flies!) The next morning I got up early with them and put on a bright florescent green vest and gloves and grabbed a bright orange trash bag and went along with them to pick up rubbish along a two mile span of freeway for their ‘Adopt A Highway’ program. I may have looked like a convict, but I had a great feeling after picking up a bunch of trash. We didn’t find anything spectacular this time (they do this 8 times a year), but we kept our eyes out for cash tucked into old cigarette boxes, random porno and the like. Time was short seeing these guys, but after an hour of our Tongan holiday propaganda, we hope we might see them again soon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Water & Oil

Niagara Falls, New York
Titusville, Pennsylvania

So after all that, with Lisa white-knuckling Ben’s sides, we rode out of New York City and headed toward Niagara Falls. Arriving there in extremely cold conditions, we viewed the falls and took a boat trip into the mist. The falls are beautiful and lie right on the American/Canadian border. From the falls we rode along Lake Erie and after about 10 hours of riding, Ben was really feeling the road. So we pulled over in a little town named Titusville, Pennsylvania. Titusville just happens to be where the first successful oil production well was ever discovered and exploited in 1849. There are a lot of attractions there, which was really interesting considering the recent influx of prices around oil. (Since arriving to the States we’ve seen the price of a barrel of oil raise from $105 to $127 with no hope in sight for any decrease.) One of the attractions in Titusville was all the rail systems that were used to transport the ‘black gold’ in and out of Pennsylvania. Because of these rails, this is how we found a unique place to stay for the night: a small hotel made up of 20 or so train cabooses (caboosi?)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New York City

New York City, New York

Much to my (Lisa) dismay, Ben decided to ride the bike through the Lincoln Tunnel and into the center of Time Square where we planned to connect with Ben’s mom. The parking garage was at 48th Street and Broadway (7th Avenue). Although they do have lane lines painted on the streets, we’re not sure they’re used as no one pays any attention to them. Riding there is less like driving on a road and more like a scene from Road Warrior! But all went according to plan and by 8 o’clock that evening we connected with Ben’s mom that flew in to spend the next few days with us. We stayed in two beautiful rooms. One was the famous Monticello and the other was the Renaissance International, overlooking Time Square and all of its shenanigans.

While waiting to meet up with Ben’s mom, we met up with a good friend of ours, Jochen. He took us up into the D.E.Shaw building where he is working. David Shaw is a multi-millionaire, one of Forbes Top-100, who has taken it upon himself to privately fund building the world’s fastest computer with the sole purpose of simulating how proteins attach themselves to the cellular wall. Jochen says that this will work and the applications of this technology could revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry. It’s really good to see private enterprise taking on huge humanitarian efforts without the bottom line being profit.

So after drinks and dinner and clubs with Ben’s mom that night, and to the dismay of ‘Big Al’ we retired to our awesome suite overlooking Time Square and crashed out.
Hung over, we got up anyway, and with Mom being a bit of a New York expert she made we had an amazing couple of days seeing all the sights we could: Trump Tower, Tiffany’s, the Plaza, Central Park, Tavern on the Green, Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Circle in honor of John Lennon, Ground Zero, the Hudson River, Tribeca, Soho, where we had fantastic cheese cake, the subways, Guitar Center, NYU, Rockefeller Center, Wall Street, the NYC Public Library, Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building. We ate hot dogs and pretzels, watched street acts, drank cosmos, and basically partied! We had a lovely dinner at Tao Restaurant as well. We enjoyed celebrating Lisa's 33rd birthday and had the awesome treat of going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, it was spectacular! Overall New York City was incredible, one of the highlights of our trip. We’ve been focused on the beauty of the outdoors for so long and it’s easy to forget the grandiose achievements man can make when unified in a common purpose.

Sadly, mom left us on Tuesday. We reconnected with Jochen and his beautiful girlfriend Elena and stayed with them in their gorgeous apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. Jochen treated us to an absolutely incredible flight in his Cessna152(?). We circled the Statue of Liberty twice, flew up the Hudson River along the city line and Central Park. Jochen gave us a zero gravity and a +2 G maneuver. What fun!

All in all, our New York trip was absolutely great and we’d never have gotten these perspectives without Mom, thanks Mom!! And Jochen, thanks for spending time with us. Come visit Vava’u again!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Woods & Washington D.C.

Franklin, North Carolina
Warrenton, Virginia
Allentown, Pennsylvania
via Washington D.C. in the District of Columbia

We continued along the Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia with plans to meet up the next day with Lisa’s cousin, Jake, in Washington D.C. We stopped for the night in a little town outside D.C. called Warrenton.

Neither of us had ever been to D.C. before. It was quite exciting going over the bridge into the city and first seeing the Washington Monument. We enjoyed the Smithsonian, seeing the Capitol Building and the White House. It was good to be reacquainted with the nostalgic feelings of the ideas and principals this country was founded on, not the just the international effects of the current regime. After wandering around and strolling through long blocks of green grass, we met up with Jake for lunch and got a chance to catch up that was a long time coming. So good to see Jake doing so well… he’s working for a democratic think-tank focused on green energy. After enjoying D.C. for the day, we had a big ride to Allentown, Pennsylvania (remember the Billy Joel song?), just 50+ miles west of New York City. We made sure to soak up as much of the countryside as possible knowing that we’d be in the bright lights and big city for the next few days.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Woods of Georgia & North Carolina

This morning we had coffee and homemade apple pie with the beautiful Grandma Newton and Uncle Don. Afterwards, we left Lawrenceville, Georgia and headed up into the north Georgia hills and the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. We rode beautiful and very woodsy tree lined roads and along rivers and lakes and had a nice stop over at a little road side store where Lisa had her first taste of the yummy and salty Boiled Peanuts that Georgia is famous for. It was a beautiful day today; not too hot with clear skies.

We crossed the border into North Carolina and stopped in a little town called Franklin, where in our quest for good BarBQue across the states, we found it in this town and had fantastic ribs for dinner along with a couple of margaritas (which Lisa got carded for despite turning 33 this coming weekend! haha!) and are settling in for a good night's sleep.

Franklin, North Carolina also happens to be a provisioning point just 10 miles from the Appalachian Trail. We met hikers a few weeks into their 2177 mile hike through the mountains from Georgia to Maine (recently extended by a few miles). Average hikes take about 6 months and it sounds amazing!

On a sadder note... We got the terrible news today that Suffolk, Virgina, which is a couple hundred miles north of us and near our path, was hit by six tornadoes on Monday. Miles of neighborhoods were destroyed, a couple hundred people were injured, and too many homes were totally destroyed, but luckily no lives were lost. Virginia isn't normally an active tornado area so this came as quite a shock. Our thoughts are with those in Virginia tonight.

Friday, April 25, 2008

From the Midwest to the deep South

Kansas City, Missouri
Little Rock, Arkansas
New Orleans, Louisiana
Panama City Beach, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia

We’ve had a fantastic last week. This week's been much more about the people than the scenery. The Midwest of America is mostly flat with slight rolling hills; some dry and brown; some green and full of small spring flowers. Kansas’ eastern prairies brought us rain and into Missouri with whispers of pea-sized hail, that luckily missed us as we drove through Kansas City rush-hour traffic to our long-time friend, Brenda B’s house. There we lounged, slept-late, caught up, played with their gorgeous kids, ate our fill of some of the best Bar B Que we’d ever had, and drank a few too many tangerine margaritas. Luckily the Texas Hold’em we played was not for money…! We’ve missed this branch of our tribe and it was soul-filling to give and receive these hugs.

When it was time to head out, Monday early morning brought us a chill to the bone that felt like the coldest weather we’d ridden in yet. It was so cold, we pulled over within minutes to thaw out at a Waffle House. Getting back on the road, we headed for Little Rock, Arkansas to meet up with Ben’s Uncle Don’s kids: Suzy and Jack. Ben hadn’t seen these two in something like twenty years. On the way we drove through the Ozark Mountains, which aren’t really mountains at all, but quite a nice change of scenery. The Ozarks are gorgeous green rolling hills and mature growth trees. Refreshingly the best scenery we’d seen since Colorado. Along the way we ate some amazing southern-style fried chicken at a little mom (used to be ‘and pop’) shop. Such a pleasure to finally meet up with Suzy and Jack and Jack's lovely girlfriend, who we're hoping will be visiting Tonga before too long. After the break in Little Rock, we got back on the bike and made for the Arkansas-Louisiana border south of Pine Bluff.

That evening, after about 12 hours of being on the road we pulled into New Orleans, Louisiana. Luckier than we realized at the time (as AT turned out to be a world-class tour guide of New Orleans), we were invited in by good friends we met while cruising, Cuyler and Anne Teague from the sailing yacht Windrose who had just moved back to New Orleans four months ago. It is fantastic to reunion with fellow cruisers. We really realize just how lucky we are to be a part of such a community and to have friends spread out all over the world. So anyway, New Orleans, which most people will remember not because of its colourful history, music, and culture, but because of hurricane Katrina in August of ’05 (more later about this), is an absolutely fun and swanky city, rich with culture that feels like it’s somewhere other than the United States. AT & Cuyler walked us all over the city to see its districts and quarters, the river, its music, inside her family’s grand uptown home with all its history and southern architecture, well known restaurants, on the street cars, down Bourbon & Canal Streets, and to hang in local haunts. AT’s family has been in N.O. since 1749, and so has seen the devastation of its floods, storms, and fires and its restorations. There is very little of the original French Creole architecture left in N.O. today. Destruction years ago led to rebuilds by the Spanish, during the short time they owned the city, and their wrought iron and brick are what N.O. is architecturally known for now. Mardi Gras beads left over from February don house stoops and trees throughout the city. This city parties hard for numerous occasions during the year, including virtually every Friday night. The streets are alive each night of the week with jazz and brass bands most often in the bars, and sometimes on the street corners. While there we consumed all the local foods and drinks we could find including jambalaya, pim’s cups, dangerously tasty hurricanes, locally brewed ales, and no less than 12 lbs. of Creole-style Crawfish. We also had the pleasure of meeting AT’s sister who runs a great neighborhood coffee shop called the Sound CafĂ© and Beth’s Books in Lower Faughburg Marigny. She also started the organization www.SilenceisViolence.org after a couple of brutal and senseless murders of some locals happened. Her organization is helping to take back the streets in what can often be a dangerous city and is also working with children through music with local musicians and much more. Hats off to Baty! (and congrats to you & Lee on your soon to be coming little one!) Overall, New Orleans is now one of our favourite cities in the world. We had such a good time hangin’ out with you, AT & Cuyler, and your hospitality was first-class, thanks guys!

After two nights in N.O., we left and drove through the neighborhoods that were hit the hardest by the floods ensuing after hurricane Katrina. After the devastating floods subsided and order was restored in the city, each building was marked with details on the status inside. At first it was written things like '2 dead bodies in the attic', but soon after the markings became a sort of code inside of a large X or a circle denoting damages and dead bodies. Watermarks can still be seen near to roof tops and much of the destruction can still be seen. Many buildings and homes that have already been rebuilt have kept their coded X markings on the front of their buildings as a reminder. Habitat for Humanity (which AT & Cuyler have been a part of) has begun rebuilding homes in the neighborhoods where the owners can't afford to do so. H.forH. has already rebuilt 150+ homes in the eastern foughburgs of New Orleans and are to be commended for their efforts. We can't express in words the sadness we felt while driving through these very unfortunate neighborhoods. People's homes and lives were destroyed, but New Orleans is rebuilding itself again and hopefully its previous residents can find a way to move back as we get the feeling that this city's spirit will never die.

Riding on we saw the Gulf of Mexico for the first time on this trip and cruised through both southern Alabama and Mississippi. Not much to tell there, but we headed for Florida and Panama City Beach, a year-round vacation spot and very popular Spring Break mecca. Large hotels donned the skyline and made us appreciate the small island nation of Tonga with no high-rises and few tourists. Panama City is a fun town and brought back many nostalgic memories for Ben who used spend quite a bit of time there and in Daytona Beach (before MTV made it famous/infamous). After a night out on the town, lots of rum, and a sunset trip down to the beach, we spent the night camping in a State Park on the river leading to the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by huge RV’s and campers. Doesn’t anyone camp in a tent anymore?!

From Panama City we left for Atlanta, Georgia (Lawrenceville, actually) via some pretty back roads. We had the fortune of stopping for lunch at a buffet of southern comfort food and gorged on fried okra, collard greens, fried chicken, and biscuits (American style, not cookies!) with gravy. In Lawrenceville we were to hook up with Ben’s dad, step-mom, grandma, and uncle. To our fond surprise, Ben’s other uncle, wife, and two first cousins (David & gorgeous Mary Claire) came down from Kentucky for the weekend and we all had quite the party. It’s so good to see that Ben’s almost 92-year-old grandmother is doing so well and we all had so much fun hangin’ out in our pajamas, drinking, yet again, margaritas (there seems to be a theme to this trip!) and eating BarBQued steaks from the 1/2 a cow that Vicky bought, which was raised all organically and marinated in diet-coke (a tip we heard on an XM BarBQue show while we were in Texas).

This is also where we finally have a garage to spread out in, tools, time, and a dad (who happens to have a Sammuel Clemmens thing going on these days...!) to help pull apart the bike and fix up a few things. We’ve been thinking for a while now that we might have a front bearing wearing out as when we make a turn we get a funny vibration. Bearings ordered, Ben found that the rear tire has some disturbing knots protruding all the way around it. Took it to a nearby shop and found out that it’s our own fault for not increasing the tire pressure by 8 to 10 lbs. above suggested pressure with all our extra weight (due to camping near, thank you! not the passenger, haha!) So, we’ve got our second new rear tire of the trip and we’ll test it out today to confirm that the vibration is gone and bearings no longer needed. Meanwhile, the bike is getting de-greased and cleaned up and the XM radio is being dismounted as the detachable unit itself (despite being locked on) decided to jump off the bike while we were underway on the highway last week. Bummer really, but we’re not without tunes, so never mind.

The plan is to leave on Tuesday morning, after the thunderstorms have moved away and we’ve rested up, and set course for Columbia, South Carolina to the farm of our friends Jonah and Will, who we also met while cruising from s/v Araby (which is for sale! Check out http://freejonah.blogspot.com/2007/11/thanksgiving.html for details). More soon….

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From Mountains to Prairie and Plains

Today's 444 miles started in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was a nice warm ride. The only thing to worry about early this morning were the tumbleweeds, especially the ones that seemed to be aiming right for the bike, as you can see in the video. New Mexico seems to have a huge police presence, more so than any of the other states we've been to.

By the time we hit Texas, so did the forcasted record-high winds. Ben felt he was more sailing than riding a motorcycle. The wind made it difficult to stay in the lane, but we were able to cruise down Route 66 most of the day unscathed. Passing the numerous semi-trucks was an interesting white-knuckled adventure.
and finally landing in Oklahoma, which amazingly looks a lot like Texas...
Tonight we're staying at the Flamingo Inn in Elk City, Oklahoma. Fingers crossed that tomorrow's wind has lessened and that we beat the low pressure system that we're riding right in front of so we can ride it out at Brenda B's!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Red Rocks in the Southwest

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Hwy 12, and National Arches, Utah
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Los Alamos and Santa Fe, New Mexico

So, we're looking back over a few days trying to write this. Pictures could never do this landscape and the awe we felt while riding through any justice at all. While struggling to try and think of as many synonyms as we can for the word 'beauty', we decided to just write our track.

The Grand Canyon was, well, grand. Most of you have seen at least pictures of the canyon, so we'll spare you the details. But our day was highlighted by a rare visitation of 5 California Condors. Their 11 to 13 foot wingspans looked like bombers flying toward us. One landed right below us and showed off for a bit. Ben lassoed it and we ate it in the campfire that evening. Condor is incredible with a little ranch sauce... :)

We didn't know what to expect at Zion National Park, but the multi-coloured flowing lines that have carved their way up thousands of feet high made the 14 mile ride through it... dangerous as hell. Zion ROCKS!

From Zion we rode through Bryce Canyon. The ruby red stalagmites towered from the valley floor thousands of feet and with the backdrop of snow at that elevation the panoramic views were bitchin' (Ben's bringing 'bitchin' back...!).

We left Bryce, heading for Moab and the National Arches on Highway 12. The only thing we can say about this stretch of road is that it was hands-down the most beautiful on this trip. One of the highlights of this stretch was a serpentine ridge line road only large enough for two cars to pass making each turn interesting as on each side we're hanging over thousand foot drops to the valley floor below with only the bike's inertia to keep us from being little spots on the bottom. Again, not a place to get distracted.

After this 11 hour mind-blowing ride, we finally ended up in BLANDing, where the name says it all. Maybe it was beautiful, but in contrast it looked like a pitiful dusthole of depression. But hey, that's just our opinion. BTW, trying to find something to eat in this Mormon-dominated town on a Sunday is a story in itself... we'll spare you.

So Monday morning in a cloud of dust we sped off to the very touristy Moab, Utah. Visited the National Arches Park, hiked a couple hours, ate, and sucked it up, leaned into it, and traversed a 5 hour stretch to southern Colorado. Our lovely friends Ed and Donna called us and offered their ranch to crash at for the night. They have a gorgeous house at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Their back land points straight to the snow line. Ironically, Ed and Donna are in California and we missed them. So after the huge party we threw for some of the folks down at the local tavern, Ben was able to repair most of the damage to the house. But hey, we travel at about 85 miles per hour and Ed'll never catch us! Just kidding, Ed. Thanks again, man.

This morning we had to use a crow bar to get ourselves out of the comfortable bed, leather up, and open the door only to find frost all over the bike. For you non-riders, this represents the equivalent of sawing a hole in a frozen pond and jumping into it. A fresh, crisp morning indeed. The frost pretty much solidified our decision to head south. We thawed out in Los Alamos, New Mexico the world's second largest non-active volcano where there is a government-sponsored laboratory hanging off the side. Our orientation to this next stretch of road was presented to us by Super Shell station clerk, Mel. Mel proceeded to enlighten us on the mysterious happenings and political frustrations of all us tax-payers. The ride was beautiful, the crater was big, and after another couple of hours we landed in our hotel room in Santa Fe where the road-hazed couple collapsed.

Tomorrow we're off in search of Brenda-B in Kansas City, Missouri, a mere 852 miles away by way of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Desert Bloom ~ Joshua Tree, California & Sedona, Arizona

We made it to the desert in time to see the last week of desert bloom. Stunning spots of colour dot the otherwise grey, brown, and green desert. Our friend Ryan drove out from San Diego to camp with us in Joshua Tree Park and in Sedona, Arizona. While driving in to Joshua Tree, looking for a campsite, Ben spotted this hole in a rock. Hours later during a random hike across the desert floor, Ryan found the hole! Joshua Trees have a look all their own. On our way to Sedona we saw our first tumble weed and 4 Dust Devils (wind twisters of sand). We drove through one that crossed the road and felt the bike blow one way and then the other before the wind disappeared. Once in Sedona we camped out next to a river and in the morning found our way to the Bell Tower Vortex for a hike. The Vortexes are areas of supposedly stronger energy that flows and twists in a vortex. Juniper bushes and trees close to the vortex areas actually grow in a twisted manner. No matter what the energy in these areas is actually like, the Red Rocks are absolutely stunning either way! We'll be heading for the Grand Canyon in a couple of days once the weather clears up a bit as folks are driving into Sedona mentioning snow and cold from up north.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Monterey Bay & Big Sur, California

Last night we had great fun hanging with our friend Jessie in Santa Cruz. Can't wait to see the shop opened up, Jess! (See you in New Orleans or Chicago?!) In the morning the rain cleared up for us and we headed out for Big Sur Park. We drove first through Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, and Carmel. Monterey Bay is a meca for the Humpback Whales. It's gorgeous driving down Hwy 1 through here, we love this coastline. Along the way we passed hundreds of lazy seals basking in the sun on the beach. We found our way to Fernwood Campground, situated right on a river, and pitched our tent on the little beach, surrounded by Redwoods. The campsite was complete with power and a wood-carved sign up at the office boasting WiFi... ahhhh, to be out in the wilderness! I think the campground toilet & shower block was nicer than the one at our hotel the night before.... On an afternoon hike we saw all kinds of wildlife - tons of birds: blue jays and woodpeckers and the like, banana slugs, and rabbits. Back at our campsite one of those little birdies fell in love with its own reflection in our motorcycle's front wheel... kept it occupied obsessively for over 4 hours and again the next morning. Fell asleep to the sound of the river flowing by. This morning's plan was a trip eastwards to the Sequoia National Forest to see the Giant Sequoias. While chatting to a couple of locals though we realized that the basin of the Sequoia valley is at 7,500 feet. To get to the good stuff we're talking about 8,000 - 10,000 feet (approx 2,800 metres). Would be fantastic, but too cold and snowy for our blood! So, we've decided to bypass the majestic forest and keep the trees in our imagination for now. We're off to Southern California to do laundry and refuel and hang out with Lisa's parents. The plan then will be to head out early Sunday for Joshua Tree Park - heading for the desert!